Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Palestine-Israel, Media, Haaretz, Bil'in residents set up 'outpost' west of separation fence 21 Dec

Settlers aren't the only ones building outposts in the West Bank: Palestinians from the village of Bil'in, near Ramallah, on Wednesday set up a caravan on land isolated from the village by the separation fence. Israel Defense Forces troops are gearing up to evacuate the caravan, military sources say. Dozens of Bil'in residents, accompanied by Israeli* and international activists, set out Wednesday morning to place the caravan on land adjacent to the settlement of Upper Modi'in.
Mohammed Khateb, a member of Bil'in's Popular Committee Against the Wall, said that the container was placed on land belonging to a village resident and comes with a building permit from Bil'in village council.

The fence cuts village residents from approximately half of their lands.

Khateb also said that the committee intends to establish a "center for the joint struggle for peace," where the caravan stands.

Bil'in has become the symbol of the struggle against the separation fence, serving as the site of dozens of joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstrations in the past year. Some of the demonstrations have ended in violent altercations with security forces.

Dealing with the caravan is liable to be an embarrassment for the IDF and the Civil Administration. The container is adjacent to the Matityahu East neighborhood of Upper Modi'in, where hundreds of illegal housing units have recently been constructed.

Akiva Eldar of Haaretz recently exposed the Civil Administration's admission that 750 housing units had been built illegally with no permits whatsoever. The caravan, which arrived Wednesday from inside Israel, is standing approximately 100 meters away from the Matityahu East construction site.

According to the law, the Civil Administration can take down the container within a month of its placement with no need for legal proceedings. But the IDF is well aware that if this is done, the Palestinians will formally accuse the Civil Administration of discrimination in hurrying to dismantle a lone Palestinian caravan while ignoring hundreds of illegal units in an adjacent Jewish neighborhood.

"Private Palestinian land is in question here, not state land. The village council approved setting up a caravan and thus this is a legal structure," said attorney Michael Sfard, who represents the village residents.

"This will be blatant proof of the fact that there is selective law enforcement if they deal with the poor caravan before the hundreds of housing units built illegally in Upper Modi'in," he added.

Sfard submitted a letter in the name of Peace Now to the Civil Administration demanding a halt to the construction within a week. At the end of this time, Sepharad writes in the letter, he will turn to the Supreme Court.

Civil Administration sources said that the construction in Upper Modi'in is indeed illegal and "the head of the Administration is examining its options to address the situation."

As for the caravan, military sources say the army has no intention of violently struggling with the residents, but say that the container will be taken down.

The same sources say that they are aware that as soon as the caravan is dismantled, they will need to explain to the court why they are rushing to act against illegal Palestinian construction while taking their time in dealing with unlawful building by settlers.
* The caravan placement is part of the intensified activity of the joint struggle of the Bil'in's Popular Committee Against the Wall and the Israeli Anarchists Against The Wall against the separation fence in the region, against the building of settler colonialist out posts and against occupation. The activity is intensified as preparation for the Israeli highest court verdict on Bil'in chalenge of the route of the separation fence due at the 1st of February.

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